Laissez les bons temps rouler (Let the good times roll) is the essence behind many Mardi Gras revelers! Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday,” is the last day of the Carnival season which always falls on the day before Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent – 47 days before Easter). The carnival season refers to the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, which officially begins on January 6 every year. This year Mardi Gras falls on Tuesday February 9, 2016.
The origins of Mardi Gras can be traced to medieval Europe, passing through Rome and Venice in the 17th and 18th centuries to the French House of the Bourbons. From here, the traditional revelry of “Boeuf Gras,” or fatted calf, followed France to her colonies. If you’re going to Mardi Gras in New Orleans or celebrating the occasion locally, here are a few terms to whisk you into the holiday spirit.
Tableaux cars: Dazzling floats.
A Throw: A bauble tossed from the floats to onlookers yelling “Throw me something Mister!” It can be beads, cups or doubloons.
Doubloon: An aluminum coin embossed with the insignia of the parade krewe on one side and the theme of the parade on the other side.
Krewe: The carnival organization staging the parade and the Carnival Ball.
Flambeaux: Torches commonly used before the advent of electric street lights and carried in many more traditional parades.
Lundi Gras: The day before Mardi Gras when King Rex and Kin Zulu arrive in New Orleans by way of a steamboat.
Second Line: A street dance performed with umbrellas and handkerchiefs by anyone who can walk behind the leader.
Boeuf Gras: A French word for fatted bull, symbolizing the last meat eaten before the beginning of Lent.
Be sure to check out another story about a part of Mardi Gras you don’t hear about as often…the Mardi Gras Indians. Click here for a post we featured a couple of years ago about the famed Mardi Gras Indians. Some of the authentic Mardi Gras foods include New Orleans seafood gumbo, creole jambalaya, crab-ctuffed catfish fillets with Cajun rémoulade, crab-and-shrimp Étouffée, shrimp and grits, beignets and of course the amazing traditional King Cake. So let the good times roll and celebrate this “green-gold-purple” festival in the Big Easy!